Vikings' 'Hollywood' Hill ready for increased role
EAGAN, Minn. — Expectations are high when your nickname is "Hollywood," and that's just fine with Holton Hill.
With cornerback Mike Hughes out for the season with a torn ACL, the Vikings could turn to another rookie for help. Hill, undrafted out of Texas, is a candidate to replace Hughes as the primary kickoff returner — and could help make up for the 63.6 percent of the snaps Hughes played on defense.
"It's unfortunate what happened to Mike, but I feel like someone that could come in and fill those shoes, so I'll just take on a role," Hill said.
Hill has terrific athleticism and made plenty of highlight-reel plays at Lamar High School in Houston and in college. He got his nickname long before that.
"When I was like 8 or 9, in the Junior Olympics, I went to a track meet in California and I did pretty good," Hill said. "I got like four medals and I came back and my football coaches, they started calling me, 'Hollywood,' and it kind of fit with my persona."
Hill said friends and family members and even some teachers began to call him "Hollywood." Now, some of his Vikings teammates do, too.
Hill, who said he has been playing outside cornerback in practices, has been in for just 20 defensive plays this season. But with Mackensie Alexander playing nickelback, Hill could be inserted if a replacement is needed for Xavier Rhodes or Trae Waynes.
With Hughes out, coach Mike Zimmer said Hill could have an increased role. Zimmer said Hill has made progress since the regular-season opener, when he had an uneven showing in four first-half snaps.
"He keeps working every day," Zimmer said. "He's a talented guy. Some of these young corners, it just takes awhile."
Hill likely will replace Hughes, injured Sunday, Oct. 14, against Arizona, as a gunner on punts and pick up some of his other duties on special teams. That could include being the primary kickoff returner.
Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he hasn't decided whether that role on Sunday at the New York Jets will go to Hill, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson or cornerback Marcus Sherels, the punt returner. But Priefer likes what he has seen from Hill, who returned a kickoff 53 yards in the preseason finale and has one regular-season return for 28 yards.
"His work ethic is outstanding," Priefer said. "He is a great locker-room young man. He is better than I thought he would be when he first got here. He just continues to impress me."
He also has impressed Sherels, whose locker is near Hill's.
"He's doing great," Sherels said. "He's got a lot of ability. Great talent, and it's fun watching him grow."